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Release Date: 12/03/1999
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston - The first trucks carrying contaminated sediments dredged from New Bedford Harbor left the city today for safe disposal in New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced. At a morning news conference in New Bedford, MA, today, environmental officials from the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and members from the Community Forum led a tour of the containment areas where the contaminated sediments have been held, and of the treatment plant that treats the water before it is discharged. The EPA also presented a $30,000 check to Jim Simmons, director of Hands Across the River Coalition, to assist the organization in reviewing technical documents and in participating fully in future cleanup decisions.

"This is clearly a milestone in the cleanup of New Bedford Harbor," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator. "When the community rejected our first plan, we designed an alternative cleanup plan through consensus while still meeting tough cleanup standards. The Community Forum is to be commended for its commitment and long hours in crafting this plan. It was a tough few years to get to this point and today the consensus building model used in New Bedford stands as a national model for community-based decision-making."

"Moby Dick is an American classic of the 19th century - the story of the New Bedford Harbor Cleanup represents a 20th century classic yet to be published - a community speaks up, government responds, sweeping policy changes results - everyone wins!," said Elsie Souza representing Congressman Barney Frank.

"There have been many steps in cleaning our harbor, but this certainly represents a significant milestone," said New Bedford Mayor Frederick M Kalisz, Jr. "We are seeing the most contaminated sediment being removed from the harbor environment and disposed of in a manner where it will no longer be a threat to our citizens or the environment."

"Getting to this point has been a good example of cooperation - cooperation between the federal and state governments and local interests as well as cooperation among the federal agencies themselves," said Colonel Brian E. Osterndorf, District Engineer, New England District, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. "It shows that, by working together, most obstacles can be overcome and solutions to the most difficult of problems can be found."

In 1994 and 1995, sediments were dredged from the most heavily PCB-contaminated areas in the harbor. This area is referred to as the "hot spot" and consists of approximately 5 acres. The dredged materials were placed in a confined disposal facility (CDF) at the bottom of Sawyer Street in New Bedford. Before disposal in New York, excess water was pumped out of the sediment to facilitate shipment. The water was treated at an on-site treatment plant before final processing at New Bedford's Municipal Waste Water Treatment Plant. In all, some 1.5 million gallons will have been treated.

In the next phase, lime is mixed into the material until the sediment is dry enough for shipping. An excavator and small bulldozer remove and load the dried sediment into trucks. EPA expects the sediment shipment to be complete by spring of 2000.